7 Tips for Generating Leads Online

Generating a lead may be the sole purpose of your site or a small piece of your marketing mix. Either way, it is always about answering a prospect's unspoken questions and communicating the value of doing business with you.

Folks do their research online precisely so they don't have to interact with someone - think of your visitors as the most introverted people you ever knew. They come to you with curiosity, expecting you to understand what they need and to lead them along a comfortable path of enlightenment and delight. Every click represents an unspoken question they hope you will answer.

Can the design, architecture and content of your Web site convince visitors you're valuable to them, so they give something of value to you in return by becoming leads? Here are seven suggestions to get you started.

The Persuasive Process

It doesn't matter whether your business is B2B or B2C, whether your sales process is simple or complex - these may influence the details of your tactics, but they won't change the fact that every ebusiness is about persuasion.

Framing a persuasive process always begins with answering the same basic questions:

Who do you need to persuade?

What are you persuading them to do?

When the goal is generating leads, you usually want to persuade your visitors to fill in a contact form, download a white paper or demo, register, opt in to a newsletter or e-mail list, or forward your content to a friend.

Once you have created the personas, constructions that represent your "who"s, and identified the action you want them to take, you then turn to designing an online experience that incorporates your answer to the third basic question:

How can you most effectively persuade them?

1. The Message Must be Relevant

Identify what really matters to your visitors. What motivates them to seek you out? What problems do you solve for them? What friction points do you reduce for them? Identify the benefits and value your products or services confer. Find your visitors' buttons, then push them by serving up a nice, juicy, relevant message.

2. No Jargon

Unless you're marketing to a select audience that absolutely requires you to communicate credibility via insiderspeak (jargon), stay away from the stuff. Jargon convinces folks you aren't really interested in talking to them, so they're far less likely to pay attention. If you must include specific terminology, give it a low profile. Those wanting to know if you can really talk the talk will look to find it (and yes, you should have a place for this on your site).

If you're not sure how folks talk or think about your products or services, conduct online consumer research and speak with the people who interact directly with your customers. Using your customers' language on your Web site not only helps them feel as though you are speaking to them, it also boosts your chances with the search engines.

3. Don't "We" All Over Yourself

The first rule of online success is it's never about you. Brilliant as you and your business may be, focus on visitors. Let them know you understand their needs and what matters to them. Put them center stage. Want a thumbnail view of how customer-focused the language on your site is? Try the Customer Focus Calculator on our Web site. It identifies how often your copy brags about things like, "We are the best, we are the original."

4. Keep It Need-to-Know

When it comes to forms, ask for as little information as possible. You probably want to request customer information that includes everything from name to shoe size. You can certainly ask for it. But the more information you ask for, the less likely folks are to fork it over. Conversion rates are generally proportional to the amount of information requested. This holds especially true for lead-generating conversions.

Lead generation is a value exchange. Your visitors expect to get something of value from you in exchange for their information. What they have to provide should not be one iota more than they perceive necessary! If you want more information, provide more value in proportion to the request. You want my shoe size for your newsletter? Offer me a free pair of socks after I've received the newsletter.

5. Help Them See It

No two ways about it, if visitors can't quickly make visual heads or tails of your content, they won't stick around and you won't generate a lead. Layout matters. Evaluate your copy for scannability and skimmability. Use eye-tracking principles so visitors can find what they expect to find where they expect to find it.

6. Qualify Better

It is your job to help your visitors qualify their needs as soon as they land on your site. When you provide a means for them to find what they want and get to it quickly, you build rapport and help your visitors feel understood. It's a process that begins on the home page (or a well-designed landing page).

But not all visitors know exactly what they want. Some may not be in a buying mood. That doesn't mean they won't buy. An exceptional qualification scheme is critical to getting a customer. It's just as critical to generating a lead. Let visitors know briefly who you are, what you do, and what you offer. You're more likely to persuade them to become a lead.

7. Test, Measure, and Optimize

Improving lead generation means evaluating what you've done so you can figure out how to do it better. Web analytics to consider include:

Responses: How many folks downloaded your white paper, subscribed to your newsletter, or opted in to your e-mail list?

Time spent on site: How long do visitors stick around?

Reject rates, especially on contact pages: Where do folks bail out of your site? Are you losing visitors just when you think you have them?

Leads-to-close ratio: Is there a connection between perception and satisfaction?

Try incorporating one or two of these suggestions and see what happens. Better still, make all these the centerpiece of your site's conversion philosophy, and watch those leads roll in!

Volume 97: 9/1/04


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